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  Kingdom of the Spiders Two Legs Good, Eight Legs BadBuy this film here.
Year: 1977
Director: John 'Bud' Cardos
Stars: William Shatner, Tiffany Bolling, Woody Strode, Lieux Dressler, David McLean, Natasha Ryan, Altovise Davis, Joe Ross, Marcy Lafferty, Roy Engel
Genre: Horror
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: On the ranch of farmer Colby (Woody Strode) in Arizona, his prize calf has been mysteriously taken ill, so he calls out Rack Hansen (William Shatner), the local vet, to investigate. Hansen is baffled, and sends the calf for tests, only to discover that the animal didn't suffer from a disease, but a bite from a spider. When the calf dies, entomologist Diane Ashley (Tiffany Bolling) is sent for, and Colby makes a disturbing find: a spider hill full of tarantulas is on the site of his ranch...

Ecology was big news in the seventies, and so we were treated to a rash of "revenge of nature" horrors like this one, which was written by Richard Robinson and Allan Caillou from the story by Jeffrey M. Sneller and Stephen Lodge. This time, as the title suggests, spiders are out to get mankind, due to the intensive use of insecticide which has killed off the spiders' natural food source. So, naturally, the newly intelligent, eight legged monsters join forces and turn to bigger prey, like cattle and humans.

For the first half hour, you'd be forgiven for thinking there was a single spider on the rampage, as only one seems to be doing the damage. During the silly opening, the calf is menaced in its paddock by the creature, for which we get a point of view camera angle as it skulks around in the grass. Later on, there are thousands as the local small town is overrun. It's sort of a cross between Jaws and The Birds, with the mayor not wanting the town quarantined before the county fair and the crafty spiders one step ahead all the way.

As Rack, Shatner is in typical form. In the role of a rugged vet, when Rack initially meets Diane, he plays a trick on her, pretending to be a garage attendant, but when they meet later on for an "Oh, it's you!" moment, he lets his libido get the better of him, and asks her out for dinner. Not taking no for an answer, he practically runs her car off the road with his truck, and all for the excuse to go out with her - I think you'll find that's sexual harrassment, Mr Shatner.

Anyway, Diane is won over by Rack's manly ways and cheeky grin, just in time for the spidery onslaught. The film takes care to paint a colourful picture of the locals, complete with country music on the soundtrack and a lot of broad acting. When the rampant, normal-sized spiders lay siege to a lodge, Rack and Diane are among those caught inside, little knowing that a massacre is going on in town.

Not only of the people, but the arachnid co-stars, too, squished under the wheels of cars and the heels of the extras. Although it looks like a TV movie for the most part, you have to admit the mayhem in the last half hour is very effective, especially if you don't like creepy crawlies, and there's an unexpectedly unhappy ending (either that or they ran out of money and couldn't afford to finish it properly). Kingdom of the Spiders may not the best of the nature's revenge horrors, but it's by no means the worst. Music by Dorsey Burnette.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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